Introduction / History
The United Arab Emirates, which lies south of the Persian Gulf, is a federation of seven independent states. The Omani Arabs make up only a small percent of the country's population. Although the UAE is largely urbanized, most of the Omani live in either the rural areas of Abu Dhabi or in the town of Dubai. The Omani are set apart from other peoples in the UAE by their language and culture, which is influenced by the Ibadi branch of Islam. They are known as being generous and polite, while still remaining impersonal.
Most people of the UAE are tribal Arabs who have lived in the region for centuries. Rivalries among the tribes have made it hard to establish a unified nation. Before the mid-1900s, this region was one of the most underdeveloped in the world. However, oil discovered in the late 1950s brought sudden wealth, and modern industries and cities were developed. By the 1970s, the UAE had one of the world's highest per capita incomes.
What are their lives like?
In the oases that dot the desert and on the outskirts of the cities, many Omani Arabs are farmers. They live in small thatched huts where they lead simple lives. A typical farm village consists of a cluster of homes made of stones or sun-dried mud. The farmers grow date palms, barley, wheat, millet, and mangoes. The Omani often gather in the marketplaces to buy and sell goods and also to socialize. They love to tell stories, recite poems or verses from the Koran, and visit with their friends.
The Omani Arabs live in extended family units. Their society is patriarchal, which means that their lives are tightly controlled and the husband/father has the ultimate authority over his household. The men do not abuse this authority because they believe that their families should obey them out of respect, rather than fear. Also, there are clearly defined roles for both sexes. The men work outside in the fields, while women work in the homes. Men and women often eat separately and never pray together. While men worship at mosques, women attend ceremonies conducted at home by female religious leaders. Marriages are generally pre-arranged by the parents. Children are a considered the family's greatest asset because they provide the parents with additional laborers and social security.
The Omani eat mainly dairy products, lamb, rice, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Tea and coffee are their favorite beverages. Islamic law forbids them to eat pork or to drink alcohol. Most of the Omani wear traditional Arab clothes, although many now prefer western clothing. Men wear white robes and turbans. They also carry knives in brightly colored sashes. The women wear long, black dresses over colorful inner clothes. Some of them also wear black masks to cover their faces.
Education in the UAE is mandatory between the ages of six and twelve. There are both primary and secondary schools in each emirate. The country's only institution of higher education is the UAE University, which opened in 1977. All education is free for UAE citizens.
What are their beliefs?
During the seventh century, intense political controversy developed among Muslims regarding how they should choose their leaders. This resulted in the formation of an Islamic sect called Ibadaya. The Ibadis withdrew from mainstream Islam and relocated in Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The Omani Arabs of the UAE belong to this branch of Islam.
The Ibadis are more literal in their interpretation and application of the Koran than most Muslims. The Omani standard is to accept others on their terms. For example, they view anything less than excessive generosity as rudeness. Even Christians are tolerated as long as they are not Muslim converts.
What are their needs?
There are only a handful of known Omani Arab Christians in the UAE. Prayer is the key to penetrating the Omani Arab Muslims with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
* Pray that God will grant His wisdom and favor to the missions agency that is currently focusing on the Omani Arabs of the UAE.
* Ask God to give the few known Omani believers living in the UAE opportunities to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Pray for the production of the Jesus film for the Omani Arabs.
* Ask God to soften the hearts of the Omani Arabs to the Gospel as it is presented to them.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Pray that many Christian fellowships will be raised up among the Omani Arabs in the UAE.